My Two Cents
Monday, 15 March 2021 14:42

Criterion’s June slate, Indiana Jones in 4K update, THX 1138 at 50, more release/industry news & In Defense of Home Entertainment

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Okay, we’ve got some serious ground to cover in today’s My Two Cents update, so let’s get right to it...

First, we’ve just posted Michael Coate’s brand new History, Legacy & Showmanship column here at The Bits, featuring a terrific new retrospective of George Lucas’ THX 1138 in honor of the film’s 50th anniversary (which was last week on 3/11 – the piece was delayed due to a technical issue). The column takes an in-depth look back at the original theatrical release and also features a great roundtable discussion with film historian Chris Barsanti, documentary filmmaker Gary Leva, and original Director of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm Craig Miller. I think you’ll really enjoy it. So you’ll find that here.

Next up, as some of you may have noticed over the weekend, we posted word on Saturday (see here) that video distributors had begun listing a 4-film Indiana Jones Collection for release on 4K Ultra HD on 6/8. This is still not to be considered official until Paramount and Lucasfilm make their actual announcement, however be aware that I’ve now confirmed it with multiple film industry sources in addition to retail and distribution sources. And it’s really not all that surprising given that 6/12 is marks the 40th anniversary of the original film’s theatrical release. We expect the set to include all four existing films in 4K with HDR10 high dynamic range and the previous DTS-HD Master Audio lossless sound mixes (but that’s still subject to change). [Editor’s Note: We’ve just confirmed that the set WILL include Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio. Details to follow shortly.] The 5-disc set will also include a disc of bonus features that are TBA. Of course, we’ll post more information on this as it comes in.

The other big news today is that our friends at The Criterion Collection have just unveiled their June slate of titles. [Read on here...]

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That slate is now set to include Masaki Kobayashi’s The Human Condition (Spine #480 – Blu-ray and DVD) on 6/8, Martin Bell, Mary Ellen Mark, and Cheryl McCall’s Streetwise/Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell (Spines #1079 and #1080 – Blu-ray and DVD) on 6/15, The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs (Spine #1082 – Blu-ray and DVD) and Visions of Eight (Spine #1081 – Blu-ray and DVD – featuring short films by Miloš Forman, Kon Ichikawa, Claude Lelouch, Juri Ozerov, Arthur Penn, Michael Pfleghar, John Schlesinger, and Mai Zetterling) on 6/22, and Dee Rees’ Pariah (Spine #1083 – Blu-ray and DVD) and Samuel Fuller’s Pickup on South Street (Spine #224 – Blu-ray and DVD) on 6/29. We’ve updated our Criterion Spines Project pages accordingly and you can read more here. We’ve posted the cover artwork for The Human Condition above left. We’ll post all of the art in the next few days, as the titles become available for pre-order on Amazon.

Back to Paramount for a moment: The studio will be releasing a Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 2-Movie Collection on 4K Ultra HD on 6/1. The set will include both Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (as previously released individually on the format) with a Digital Copy. But in honor of the original film’s 20th anniversary on 6/15, Paramount will also release Lara Croft: Tomb Raider on Blu-ray that same day, remastered from the new 4K scan. The Blu-ray will also come with a Digital copy. All the previous extras will carry over.

The company is also re-releasing the original Mission: Impossible feature film as a new 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Blu-ray on 5/18, similarly remastered from the recent 4K scan and with legacy extras.

They’re also reissuing Atlantic City, Primal Fear, Along Came a Spider, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Kinky Boots on Blu-ray and DVD throughout the month of April, each in celebration of their respective anniversaries. Note that none of these films have been remastered.

In other release news today, Shout! Factory has announced that their forthcoming Explorers: Shout Select Collector’s Edition (due on 5/25) will offer both the home video and theatrical cuts of the film, the theatrical trailer, and a trio of all-new special features including the 65-minute A Science Fiction Fairy Tale: The Story of Explorers documentary (featuring new interviews with director Joe Dante, screenwriter Eric Luke, star Ethan Hawke, and more), deleted scenes with optional commentary by Dante, and new interviews with cinematographer John Hora and editor Tina Hirsch.

Lionsgate will release George Gallo’s Vanquish on Blu-ray and DVD on 4/27, with the Digital release expected on 4/20.

In a bit of 4K news, we’ve learned from sources that Studio Canal will be releasing their new 4K restoration of Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct in Q2 of this year, complete with several all-new extras that include a feature-length documentary and new artwork. Our 4K UHD Release List here at The Bits has been updated accordingly.

Also, as we’ve reported previously, the company is working on a new Blu-ray and DVD release of Ousmane Sembène’s Mandabi (1968), which was the first feature-length film in the African language. The film has also been restored in 4K.

Meanwhile, it appears that David Lynch’s Dune will be released on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD by Arrow Video sometime this summer.

The Film Detective has announced that they’ll be releasing Vittorio Cottafavi’s Hercules and the Captive Women (1963) on Blu-ray and DVD on 4/13 (SRP $24.95 and $19.95). The film has been remastered and restored in 4K from rare 35mm archival elements. Extras will include the full Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of the film, an introduction by MST3K writer and co-star Frank Conniff, audio commentary by film critic and screenwriter Tim Lucas, the Hercules and The Conquest of Cinema: A Swords and Sandals documentary produced by our friend Daniel Griffith at Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, and a 12-page booklet with an essay from author and historian C. Courtney Joyner.

And as many of you know from our Friday news update, the Warner Archive currently has a “Final 4 for $44” sale running on the WB Shop website. Now… there was some speculation by Bits readers over the weekend that the “Final 4” wording was meant to tie into NCAA March Madness, like Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ current sale branding. However we’ve learned that the email Warner Archive sent out to promote the sale specifically said “2021 is here, and with it comes change. So we and our friends at the Araca Group that manage WB Shop wanted to say thank you for your support with a final 4 for 44 sale!” That clearly suggests that a change is coming, either to the shop or Warner Archive itself. It now seems likely that WB Shop is either being eliminated or taken over by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment proper (or Universal as part of their new joint distribution/marketing partnership). And Warner Archive itself now seems likely to become simply a label of WBHE, with everything handled by them instead of the long-time dedicated WA team, most of whom are now gone (having been cut in the recent round of layoffs by Warner Media, as we’ve reported previously here at The Bits).

This brings me to an important topic I wanted to touch upon today here at the site…

A couple weeks ago, in the wake of the news that Paramount was firing much of its home entertainment marketing team, my friend TK Arnold wrote a great editorial over at Media Play News called Let’s Give Home Entertainment Teams the Respect They Deserve (you’ll find it here). TK rightly points out that it was home entertainment executives who were responsible for the Golden Age of Movie Discs with the advent of DVD, bringing new life and vitality to aging studio catalogs. The revenue from home entertainment exceeded the theatrical business in 2001 and quickly funded an industry-wide tidal wave of film preservation and remastering. Home entertainment executives adapted to the times and to new formats (Blu-ray, 4K, Digital, VOD), pioneering electronic sell through, windowing, and data analytics. When the pandemic hit, they rose to the challenge, ramping up disc releases and creating clever new ways to market titles online with virtual cast/filmmaker reunions and live watch parties. In fact, home entertainment has actually been the one financial bright spot for the industry this past year. But of course, as studio after studio has raced to belt tighten, it’s almost always the home entertainment and remastering personnel who have faced the axe first.

That’s a shame for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that these home entertainment teams have been some of the most creative and loyal employees in the business for the past quarter century. I personally know dozens of great people—many of them friends and all of them responsible in one way or another for your favorite Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K releases over the years—who are now out of a job, folks who worked at Paramount, Warner Bros, Universal, Sony, Fox, and Disney. That’s bad enough, but of course these sorts of layoffs are going on all around the world as companies struggle to survive in a tough economic environment.

But what’s most tragic about the fact that so much of Hollywood’s belt-tightening has come at the cost of home entertainment and mastering, is that these same people are the very heart and soul this industry! These are the people most deeply in touch with the history of each studio. These are the people who know each studio’s catalog best. They know all the talent involved. They know what’s in the archives, what’s been remastered, what needs to be remastered, which elements survive, which need preservation, and how best to do that! They are, quite literally, the guardians of Hollywood’s history. They know the film and TV industry’s most avid and enthusiastic consumers the best too. They know which films those people love, which are underappreciated gems, and which deserve long-overdue release on disc or digital (something that Warner Archive in particular excelled at).

Think of it this way: What is a movie studio that’s become disconnected from its history and its relationship with talent? Essentially, it’s just a production company. And those are a dime a dozen in Hollywood.

Look... I understand that, from a business perspective, such layoffs seem to make sense for the bottom line when your company is bleeding cash in the middle of a pandemic. But when the studios cut mostly home entertainment people from their payrolls, they’re losing decades of invaluable institutional knowledge that—in many cases—is irreplaceable. And mark my words: Today’s studio leaders, or the leaders who follow in their footsteps, will come to regret that short-sightedness dearly.

All right, that’s enough for one day. Back tomorrow with more.

Stay tuned...

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